per jacobsen, norwegian ice skater and resistance fighter
Entrance of Natzweiler-Struthof Concentration camp with the Monument to the Departed behind it.
Per Jacobsen fought for life in a French concentration camp and lost
By Kathy Warnes
When the Nazis invaded their country in 1940, Norwegians had to decide whether to resist the occupation or to collaborate with them. Per Jacobsen quickly made his choice.
The Nazi Blitzkrieg machine invaded Norway on April 9, 1940, and Hitler planned to capture King Haakon VII and the Norwegian Government in order to force the country to surrender. The Royal Family, the Government, and most members of the Storting, the Norwegian Parliament, were able to escape the Germans and set up a government in exile in London.
Per Jacobsen Chooses Quickly as a Skating Spin
Per Jacobsen knew what he would do before he heard the sound of jack boots on the cobblestone streets of Oslo. Per was born in Kristiana, Norway, on March 23, 1911. He studied economics and auditing, and in 1931 and again in 1932, he was the Norwegian champion in figure skating. Some Norwegians like Vidkun Quisling collaborated with the Nazi occupiers. Others like Per Jacobsen and Max Manus joined the Norwegian Resistance.
At the beginning of the war, Per Jacobsen fought for Norway in the battles in the Oppland District of Norway and after the Nazis invaded Norway, he joined the Resistance movement. He played an important part in the escape of Max Manus, a Norwegian Resistance fighter who knew too many secrets to be tortured by the Nazis. Per helped Max escape from Nazi custody at Ulleval Hospital in Oslo in February 1941. He smuggled in a fish line which was used to pull up a rope for climbing out of the window and he also organized car transportation for Max.
Per Proves Himself an Idealist
For a time, Per belonged to an intelligence group called Skylark A, and after the Nazis infiltrated it, Per started working with the underground newspapers. The Nazis soon arrested him and imprisoned him from March 18 to April 1, 1941 “for having opposed a German decree.” He was arrested for the second time on June 18 and the Nazis locked him up in Mollergata 19, a notorious Nazi prison in Oslo.
In his memoir Det Demrer en Dag, Knut Haukelid, a soldier of the Norwegian resistance, described Jacobsen as the most indefatigable idealist he met during the early war years.
Hitler's "Night and Fog Decree"
On December 7, 1941, the same day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and four days before Hitler declared war on the United States, Hitler signed the Nacht und Nebel, or "Night and Fog" decree. Hitler commanded Armed Forces High Command Chief Wilhelm Keitel to implement the decree. "Night and Fog" resulted in the kidnapping and forced disappearance of many of the resistance fighters and political activists throughout the Nazi occupied territories of Western Europe. Anyone that the Nazis deemed a danger to the state could be executed or vanish into the "Night and Fog" of Germany.
The decree was designed to punish Nazi opponents in occupied countries, intimidate local populations, and deny families and friends all knowledge of what happened to those unlucky enough to be caught up in the Nazi "Night and Fog."
The Nazis Create Natzweiler-Struthof
The Nazis established a special concentration and extermination camp for "Night and Fog" prisoners called Natzweiler-Struthof, which was located in the Vosges Mountains about 32 miles from Strasbourg. It was the only concentration camp that the Nazis operated on French soil, although there were temporary camps like the one at Drancy.
The camp held a crematorium and a gas chamber outside the main camp which was not used for mass exterminations. The Nazis murdered some Jews and Gypsies in the crematorium to provide 'anatomical specimens' for Dr. August Hirt at the Medical School of Strasbourg University in Strasbourg. Strenuous work, medical experiments, poor nutrition and mistreatment by the SS guards resulted in an estimated 25,000 deaths.
There were about fifty subordinate sub camps in the Natzweiler-Struthof system, located in Alsace and Lorraine as well as in the adjoining German provinces of Baden and Wurttemberg. By the fall of 1944, there were about 7,000 prisoners in the main camp and more than 20,000 in the sub camps.
Natzweiler-Struthof operated between May 21, 1941, and the beginning of September 1944, when the SS evacuated the camp to Dachau. Over the three years the camp existed, the total number or prisoners reached an estimated 52,000 people coming from countries like Poland, the Soviet Union, the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Norway. The camp was liberated on November 23, 1944.
Per Jacobsen Is a Silent Hero
Per Jacobsen was imprisoned at Grini Concentration Camp from August 7, 1942, to July 29, 1943. He was shipped to Germany on July 29, 1943, and sent directly to the Nacht und Nebel camp Natzweiler - Struthofwhere he survived for almost a year before he died on June 13, 1944. Most of the prisoners in Naztweiler-Struthof managed to survive for only a few months. Per Jacobsen is buried at Naztweiler-Struthof .
In his book published after World War II entitled,Det Vil Heist Ga Godt, Max Manus described Per Jacobsen as a "grand companion, and an ardent idealist, one of the silent heros that undertook the biggest efforts."
Pilgrim Among the Shadows, Boris Pahor, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 1995
Nacht und Nebel, Floris B. Bakels, Lutterworth Press, 1993
Night and Fog, Arne Brun Lie, W.W. Norton & Company, 1990